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Contradicting McCain, Holtz-Eakin Says Wind Industry Needs Subsidies

By Brad Johnson  

"Contradicting McCain, Holtz-Eakin Says Wind Industry Needs Subsidies"

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McCain WindOn Monday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gave a major address on global warming policy at the North American headquarters of the Danish wind-turbine manufacturer Vestas, a location criticized as “hypocritical” for his longstanding and active opposition to federal support for the domestic wind industry. In 2004, he introduced legislation that would have eliminated the renewable energy production tax credit, and his continued opposition prevented renewal of the tax credit in 2007 and 2008. He has also vigorously opposed any form of a federal renewable electricity standard.

When asked by Grist magazine in October on his position on subsidies for green technologies like wind and solar, McCain responded:

I’m not one who believes that we need to subsidize things. The wind industry is doing fine, the solar industry is doing fine. In the ’70s, we gave too many subsidies and too much help, and we had substandard products sold to the American people, which then made them disenchanted with solar for a long time.

But in a press telebriefing Monday following McCain’s address, top adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said:

When you look at wind and the production tax credit and you look at some of the other alternatives, they cannot given the current market conditions totally be successful without existing production tax credits.

Pressed by Living on Earth’s Jeff Young whether McCain supported the renewable energy production tax credit, Holtz-Eakin said, “He would want to make sure that we did not at this point in time stop the wind and solar from progressing.”

As each day goes by, it’s becoming more difficult for Holtz-Eakin, who made sure to tell reporters on the call that he is a “PhD economist,” to keep track of McCain’s incoherent policies and inconsistent promises.

UPDATE: Gristmill‘s Kate Sheppard pressed McCain yesterday on his opposition to renewable energy subsidies but his support for nuclear industry subsidies. McCain did not address the contradiction, but did say: “I am unashamed and unembarrassed by my advocacy for nuclear power.” Also at Gristmill, Charles Komanoff finds:

Over the past 25 years, the entire federal subsidy for wind power [$3.75 billion] has been no greater than the subsidy bestowed on nukes each year from the fifties through the eighties [total $154 billion].

Transcript of Press Briefing:

Q: It kind of sounds like you’re saying that the wind and solar industries don’t need additional support — we don’t want to pick a winner there — but the nuclear industry, which I understand is fairly mature, does need additional support. Why is that or am I mishearing things?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Uh it it would I think right now uh when you look at wind and the production tax credit and you look at some of the other alternatives uh they cannot given the current market conditions totally be successful without existing production tax credits. So what the senator would like to see is that to the extent that those credits are in place to support these uh alternatives that credits not be about picking winners, that they be applied in a way that’s fair across all alternatives.

His view on nuclear is not that they need additional financial subsidies so much as they need some some clear political uh help in things like fixed storage of nuclear fuels, transportation that’s necessary of those fuels, and the kind of political roadblocks that have hurt the industry. He wants to lead on the politics and be fair and judicious in the use of taxpayer dollars.

Q: But those things you’re talking about would cost a lot of taxpayer money, wouldn’t they? If we have to build, say, you know, a half-dozen more Yucca Mountains.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Uh, it’s not a guarantee that the industry itself wouldn’t have to kick in to pay for these, as indeed they are for Yucca Mountain. You’d like to have those financing mechanisms be efficient, but they’re simply not happening right now. We’re not making sufficient progress and that is the point about those kind of efforts.

Q: And he does support the tax credits for wind and solar? Or he does not?

HOLTZ-EAKIN: Uh he uh would want to make sure that we did not at this point in time stop the wind and solar from progressing. And then, let’s put a cap-and-trade in place which is an automatic incentive for wind and solar and review as necessary if we need to keep those credits in place.

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